15 August, 2017

rain in a drawer

12.36 AM

The cat tried to enter the house again. I had left the door ajar as usual and she popped out of darkness with her usual noiselessness (I should fix the bulb outside. This will be the fourth one in six months). Her movement is so noisy, but without a trace of sound. The first few steps are brisk as she hauls half her body in through the opening as thin and fat as her. Then the sudden halt, complete stillness save for the belly heaving under brown-white fur. Her ears sense that I am looking at her. With a quick jerk she turns left to find me in my usual spot. I look into her alert green eyes and wonder if she can see the dormant sleep in mine. I also wonder whether the rest of her body is as still as the present half pretends. I think especially of the tail. The inside of my right palm trembles invisibly as the image of a soft tail escaping my loose grip flashes for a second. Meanwhile, we are still looking at each other, testing waters. At times, without looking away, she takes a step forward and I lunge at her with a mock threat. Immediately the supple feline body folds back into darkness like half a wave. Tonight though, we were too tired for these games. She retreated gently into the night.

I wonder if she will come back tonight. Her surrenders are never final.

 

1.32 AM

I cannot sleep. I must remember this. Even if we spend every living moment of our days and nights together, doing the same things, together, we will never fall asleep, together, at the exact same moment. Even if we see the same dream, we’ll always be at different points in the story. I miss you terribly. The night is a torment. It’s raining. I don’t have to water plants tomorrow.

 

2.04 AM

The rain has turned furious and is crashing passionately against the corrugated plastic roof of the veranda. I have two towels. When it starts raining, I save only one of them. The rain is so thick tonight, that the one hanging nakedly on the wire, will remain soaked for a long time. Perhaps it will take till afternoon for it to dry. That is if the sun comes out. I hope it does. Hot water showers depend on it.

 

2.23 AM

All that sound and fury lasted for twenty puny minutes. I am sure the annoyingly slow but insistent puttering of droplets will last longer. I thought I’ll go through the text I have to teach this Friday. ‘Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea’ Shakespeare, Sonnet 65. The copy of the textbook they gave me, is in tatters.

(British Literature from Chaucer to the Present Day: Tomes and Tatters)

This copy once belonged to Amina Kauser. Her handwriting, like her name, carries a guileless elegance. Diligent notes fill the margins of practically every page. Around the dark black ink of printed words, Amina has practically re-written the whole text, with the softness of her pencil and plainness of her language.

In Sonnet 65, she has no patience for Shakespeare’s tentativeness  : “How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea”. Her version on the side is more conclusive – everything can be destroyed by time beauty is temporary.

She complicates the last line though : “That in black ink my love may still shine bright” (Amina’s note: poem immortalised my friendship to my love (poem)).

 

3.00 AM

Tried sleeping but couldn’t. I felt like going through Amina’s book again, this time to find the more interesting notes – doodles, obscenities, declarations of love, nonsense conversations. There were none. As if Amina always knew that her book will end up in a library. As if she was performing a task, a duty of sanitizing Goldsmith’s dirty mind and containing Donne’s unruliness in her polite annotations. Or perhaps these words and thoughts are not her own, only the handwriting is. I did chance upon a few spellings that Amina is likely to have made up on her own – orthodocs, shasiated, disulutionment. And a question that I cannot decide is a doubt or a rhetoric – “Why is speech primary and writing secondary?”

The last page of the book with no printed word on it, Amina has used to write down all the phonetic symbols in order. Next to each symbol, she has recreated the sound in Urdu script. I think of that old hindi film song where the creepers on the wall, look like Urdu letters and words. This book now looks like an old house full of creepers crawling on walls.

I’ll perhaps listen to that song, while I try to sleep. The cat didn’t come back.

 

12.25 PM

I slept through the morning. When I woke up, a few minutes back, the day was so sunny that for a moment I forgot about the rains. It was raining in my dream though. There was rain, grass, mud and you. Our bodies were glistening and shivering, feet glazed with damp mud, hair as thick as rivers. We were wrapped in each other like coiling leafy creepers, and our hands moved with the elegance of verses written in longhand.

I woke up utterly disoriented. My whole body felt dry as a desert, inside and outside. A strange stiff shoulder and a blocked nose. I should not sleep naked in this weather.

 

1.38 PM

I haven’t opened the door since morning and all the windows are shut; the sun is warming their translucent glass panes. I slept through the breakfast hour, and now I am too lazy to cook. I plan an elaborate lunch for every holiday, but on the day itself, cooking seems like the worst idea. I’ll order something. Water is over too. I hope Murugan is not too lazy to bring it today.

 

2.00 PM

I feel like writing a poem to Amina Kauser. The title – to Amina Kauser is running in my head. I searched for her name on Facebook. The first profile that popped up, carried the picture of an anime girl with pink hair and doe eyes. The profile was empty save for a few pictures, with a string of comments by several men.

One of the pictures said – ‘Life is full of fake people! Trust no one’.  Amina in her book had put a curly bracket around the last two lines of “To His Coy Mistress” and added a note – seize the day. Another picture, another advice – ‘No Love, No Tension’.

The most recent picture was a still from a Hindi film – closeup of a teary eyed actress. The text on the picture said – ‘Don’t come visiting me after I DIE.  I needed you when I was ALIVE’.

 

3.50 PM

Murugan brought water. When I opened the door to collect the canister, he was grinning at me like an idiot. It took me a few seconds to realise that he was grinning because he thought I was an idiot. I had left the garbage bag out last night and by now it lay it tatters, its contents strewn around gloriously on the cement floor. “Abhi poora saaf karna padega” Murugan said, still grinning with his overly white teeth.

Bloody cat!

 

tHe SToryTEller and The IntRodUctioN

 

Like many people, my relationship with my father has been a complex one. Or atleast, for the sake of telling a story in a storylike way it is best to describe the relationship that way. One cannot deny its complexity, which I alone can verify in any case. The complexity of our relationship comes from both of us being objects of fascination to each other, often becoming caricatures of our roles as daughter and father. But not the good sort of caricatures of daughter and father but the poor sort, one always lacking in feature to be the good sort.
The good sort I believe comes to some use as reference in this particular tale of telling. The sort that has acquired the cringworthy comparison of Princess and Hero. Daughters as princesses and fathers as heroes of the daughters who are princesses. The reason I say this may be a useful point of reference is not to simply signify that my relationship with my father is far from any princess-hero rubbish, which it most certainly is- far from, that is. In an odd sense of term however this father of mine has played a particular kind of hero in many stories I have told. Mainly because it is the hero himself who has narrated many of the stories I simply repeat- and admittedly not relayed that they were all from another source. With this attribution, I must comment on how many times heroes narrate their own stories as heroes. One may say that this is a particular trait of heroism- to sing of one’s own valour, lest another may hesitate.
My father is a gifted storyteller. In that, I have secured my opening line to a story of my own telling which characterises him as the storyteller. This ploy has worked one too many times if I may say so myself. To what may face some derision if he were to be in the know, everytime I use this ploy it is to cast this father of mine as the unfortunate anti-hero to justify my politics. He becomes a villainous casteist, the ‘benevolent oppressor’, the misogynist, the patriarch, the manipulator and the easily manipulated. Now you see what I mean by not fitting into the princess caricature. At this point, my father who is a gifted storyteller would turn up his nose and tone filled with condescension point out to me that a story written in complicated sentences cannot be much of a story at all. Which mine are. His stories are long and end in other stories, but one may notice that his sentences are not long. They also have that particular feature of daddies who are heroes and are not, where the sentences trail when imbued with some emotion. To find completion would be horrendous and end in abrupt tellings of tales.
As the object of my stories, this father has played hero in all stories where I make a case against said heroism. I imagine that in all his long hours alone at home, he spins tales of me as the object of his stories as well. A princess who is anything but. He must in his long stories put me in various scenarios where I have not been a princess to illustrate how I must not be seen as one. In these tales I imagine, that as a gifted storyteller with an immense talent for description he will dress me in flowery pants and red lisptick. My red lipstick has become a source of some worry to him. The flowery pants were a mistake he made on my 10th birthday. In these tales he concocts while sitting on the dull grey sofa cover he chose, I must have long arguments about communism, economics and the best way to cut mangoes in the English he resents my command over.
The few times our eyes meet reluctantly over discussing steel plates at lunch, our individual tales of princesses and heroes collapse into the mindless mundane. My relationship with this father of mine is complex I imagine, because we are used to our distaste of each other in flowery pants and misogynist triumph.

*image from The Storyteller, Evan Turk

बैनेड्रिल और नेरुदा की याद

बैनेड्रिल का हैंगओवर कहाँ किसी शराब के हैंगओवर से कम होता है. आधी नींद में आँख खुली तो फेसबुक अपना वही निष्ठुर कार्यक्रम शुरू किये हुए था. मेमोरी वाला. स्मृतियों से ज़्यादा कठिन क्या होता है? फेसबुक मेमोरी पर क्लिक किया तो बहुत सारी अनचाही स्मृतियों के साथ नेरुदा आ टपके. आज उनका जन्मदिन है. वही नेरुदा जिसे मार्केज़ ने बीसवीं सदी का सबसे महान कवि मुक़र्रर किया था. वही नेरुदा जिसने सत्रह साल की उम्र में चेक कवि और पत्रकार जान नेरुदा के पागलपन में अपना नाम नेरुदा रख लिया था. अपने तेरहवें साल में वह खुद को नेफ्ताली रेयेस कहता था. इसी नाम से उसने अपनी पहली कविताएं लिखीं लेकिन जवान होने तक वह पाब्लो नेरुदा के नाम से पहचाना जाने लगा. हालाँकि उसका असली नाम रिकार्डो बासोअल्तो किसी को याद नहीं रहा. न ही उसे याद रखने की किसी को ज़हमत उठानी पड़ी. खुद नेरुदा को भी नहीं. अगर नेरुदा ने अपना नाम नहीं बदला होता? या नेरुदा पैदा ही नहीं हुआ होता? या लातिनी अमरीका का कोई आतंरिक युद्ध उसे लील गया होता ? तो क्या यह पृथ्वी ऐसी ही होती जैसी है? उसके मरने के चव्वालीस साल बाद भी हम मोटे से हरदम पाइप सुलगाने वाले आदमी को क्यों याद कर रहे हैं?

मुझे कभी नहीं मालूम था कि पाब्लो नेरुदा कौन है. जयपुर के केंद्रीय विद्यालय – 3 में थर्ड पीरियड मिस मीनू बांदीवाल का होता था. मैं दो बार ग्यारहवीं करके आया था और चाहता था बारहवीं जल्दी निबट जाए तो स्कूल से छुटकारा मिले. मीनू बांदीवाल क्लास में आईं और ‘कीपिंग क्वाइट’ कविता मुझे पढ़ने को कहा गया. मैं कीपिंग क्वाइट पढ़ रहा था और मुझे लगा कि कवि मुझ ही से बात कर रहा है. वो मेरे बगल में बैठे कुशाल से बात कर रहा है. वो हम सभी से एक साथ नहीं एक एक कर बात कर रहा है. राक्षसी प्रवृत्ति की मेरी क्लास पहली बार इतना मौन धारण किये हुए थी. किसी ने हमें इस तरह मौन रहने की हिदायत कभी दी ही नहीं थी. जिस तरह की कविताएं स्कूल में पढाई जाती रही हैं, सभी कवि तो उठने, जागने, लड़ने, कुछ तय करने को कह रहे थे. यह पहली बार हुआ जब किसी ने कहा कि मौन केवल चुप्पी नहीं बल्कि वह दृष्टिकोण है जससे सतह के नीचे जो घट रहा है सामने आएगा. हम जीवन में बेहतर निर्णय लेने में सक्षम होंगे. मार्केज़ को मैं थोड़ा पढ़ चुका था. जब पता चला कि मार्केज़ से लेकर चे तक सब इस कवि के मुरीद हैं तो जितना बस में आया पढ़ डाला गया. दिल्ली आने के बाद नेरुदा की महँगी किताबें खरीदने के लिए जेब में ज़्यादा पैसे नहीं थे तब इ.एच कार की ‘व्हाट इस हिस्ट्री’ कमला नगर में बेच कर ‘ट्वेंटी पोयम्स ऑफ़ लव एंड अ सांग ऑफ़ डेस्पेयर’ खरीद ली थी. अब लगता है कि ई.एच कार का ही श्राप है जिसकी वजह से ग्रेजुएशन के बाद इतिहास नहीं पढ़ पाया. पहली नौकरी लगने के बाद सबसे बड़ा सुख यह था की नाईट शिफ्ट्स में जितनी किताबों के प्रिंट निकाल सकते हों निकाल लिए जाएं. तनख्वाह जो इतनी कम मिलती है उसका हिसाब नेरुदा के प्रिंट आउटस ने पूरा कर दिया. नेरुदा नहीं होते तो किसने नमक, जुराब, टमाटर, बिखरी चीज़ों, टूटी चीज़ों, खिलौनों, नीबू, जीन्स और न जाने किस किस आम चीज़ पर कसीदे पढ़ उन्हें इतना ख़ास बनाया होता? वे नहीं होते तो कौन माचु पिचू के शिखरों पर ग्रन्थ लिख डालता? कौन अपनी प्रेमिका के लिए सदी की सबसे उदास पंक्तियाँ लिखता? कौन अपनी प्रेमिका को हज़ारों हज़ारों उपमाएं देता ?

हम सब जो विचारधाराओं के धंधे में फसे हुए लोग हैं उन्हें नेरुदा का 1971 में रेडियो कनाडा को दिया गया इंटरव्यू ज़रूर पढ़ना चाहिए. नेरुदा ने गरजते हुए कहा कि ‘मैं आपको बता रहा हूं कि मैं राजनीतिक कवि नहीं हूं. मैं उस वर्गीकरण से नफरत करता हूं जो मुझे विचारधारात्मक रूप से प्रतिबद्ध कविता के प्रतिनिधि के रूप में नामित करने पर जोर देती है. एक लेखक के रूप में मेरी महत्वाकांक्षा, यदि कोई महत्वाकांक्षा है, तो मुझे उन सभी चीजों के बारे में लिखना है जिन्हें मैं देखता हूं. मुझे पता है मैं प्यार करता हूं या मुझे नफरत है. लेकिन मुझे “श्रमिकों की दुनिया” की ओर इशारा करते हुए, आप मुझे नकली और उदार तरीके से जनता या संगठित श्रमिकों के दिग्गजों की चिंताओं के लिए प्रवक्ता बनाते हैं. वह मैं नहीं हूं. मैं केवल लैटिन अमेरिकी दुनिया की चिंताओं के समकालीन दुनिया की चिंताओं की मेरी कविता के एक निश्चित भाग की गूंज भर हूं. लेकिन मैं एक राजनीतिक कवि के रूप में वर्गीकृत होने से इनकार करता हूं. मैं चाँद का कवि हूं, मैं फूलों का कवि हूं, मैं प्यार का कवि हूं. जिसका अर्थ है कि मेरे पास कविता की एक बहुत पुरानी अवधारणा है जो मेरे द्वारा लिखी गई संभावना का खंडन नहीं करती है. मैं वह लिखना जारी रखता हूं जो समाज के विकास और प्रगति और शांति की शक्ति के लिए समर्पित है.’ नेरुदा सदी से सबसे महान प्रेम गीत इसलिए लिख पाए क्योंकि वे जानते थे कि उनकी कविता का जन्म पर्वत और नदी के बीच किसी जगह में हुआ है. बारिश की बूंदों से उनकी कविता को आवाज़ मिली है और वह घने अरण्य में छिपे किसी पेड़ से लिपटी रहती है.

नेरुदा को पढ़ना कभी इजाज़त में नसीरुद्दीन शाह और रेखा को रेलवे स्टेशन के उदासीन वेटिंग रूम में बैठे देखना होता है. कभी पक चुकी कढ़ी में मेथी का तड़का लगाने जैसा. नेरुदा की भाषा लोर्का या बौदलेयर की तरह चूसनी नहीं पड़ती, वह अपने आप आपकी जीभ पर पिघलती चलती है. आपकी भौहों को खुजाती चलती है. आप उसे हथेलिओं में आए पसीने की तरह महसूस कर सकते हैं. एक ही कविता में नेरुदा पूछते हैं –

मुझे बताओ, ये गुलाब यूँ ही उघाड़ा रहता है
या यही इसका श्रृंगार है?

और

बारिश में खड़ी ,गतिहीन रेलगाड़ी से ज्यादा उदास
दुनिया में और क्या चीज हो सकती है?

इसलिए नेरुदा की कविताओं को आप पायजामे की तरह पहन बाजार से आध पाव नीबू खरीदने जाएंगे, तो कुछ शब्द रेहड़ी पर ज़रूर छोड़ आएँगे.

– मलयानिल

अपना अपना चाँद

fb_img_1455654444440.jpg

 

अपनी अपनी आँखें हैं तो अपना अपना क़िस्सा होगा
अपनी अपनी ज़बान का अपना अपना लहज़ा होगा

अपनी अपनी पीठ के नीचे अपना अपना दर्द टिकेगा
अपने अपने कान के पीछे अपना अपना धूल बसेगा

अपने अपने अपनों का अपना अपना दूसरा होगा
हर तीसरी नुककड़ का अपना अपना झगड़ा होगा

अपनी अपनी शिकायतों की अपनी अपनी रसीदें होंगी
अपनी अपनी आंसुओं का अपना अपना फ़ायदा होगा

अपनी अपनी हंसी के पीछे अपनी अपनी हार होगी
अपने अपने मोज़ों में छिपी अपनी अपनी शर्म होगी

अपने अपने पैरों तले अपना अपना आकाश खुलेगा
अपने अपने तारों के बीच अपना अपना सा चाँद होगा.

***

 

पोस्ट स्क्रिप्ट:
…प्रेम की एक ही पाती
पर रोज़ अलग अलग
अदाओं के साथ
बाँचती ये तीन औरतें
खट्टी-मीठी नज़रों से
दुनिया को देखती हुई
बुनती रहती हैं
हाथों से
अपना अपना चाँद…

शुक्ला चौधुरी  (तीन गर्भवती महिलाएँ)

liSts foR the rAins

against the rain
The rains are here and so are my 5 o’clock allergies. Not that it comes dot at 5, but come it does. Around 4, I know it’s right round the corner. That’s about when the precautionary measures start. While the water is boiling, the itch creeps into the insides of my eyes. Right first, I wink rapidly. A watching pot never does boil, I increase the temperature. Left next, I shut my eyes tight and open wide again. I know if I scratch, it will only intensify. The water has just started boiling over when a single tear rolls down my right cheek. I add a big tablespoon of coffee into the vessel and let it boil once more. Turn off quickly and grab the nearest cup. The vessel is too hot. I pause for a second or two to deliberate. Sneeze first or pour the coffee into the cup. I go with coffee and sneeze comes with it. I stare at the cup, most of the coffee is in it. I decide to forget what else might be in there.
I shut all doors and windows. the house is covered in all kinds of weeds and creepers and creepy flowers. A single blow of the wind… I sneeze, once, twice, and then a marching band of sneezes. I pour the coffee into the sink and wash the burn off my hands.
I try again- a big roll of toilet paper, a giant blanket and a thinner bedsheet, switch on the fan, turn on the laptop, and all kinds of big and small eats. The blanket is too warm, and I sweat through sneezes 45, 46 and right through 59. I opt for the bedsheet. I sit up straight, throw the bedsheet off and switch on the fan. I can’t watch this anymore, to sneeze one has to concentrate. And one has to sneeze to rid oneself of a stuffed nose. Besides, i can barely see through eyes as small as beads. I rub both vigorously. An eyelash is in there, I’m sure of it. The right one, always the right one. I stick a finger in to pull it out. A finger covered in red and yellow and salt. Both eyes resolutely remain red, no eyelashes pulled out.
x
I think of the long summer before, the dry heat and the wet one as I watch the lizard on the ceiling. I think of that Christmas dinner last winter, I wore a black sweater. Many writers have written about autumn. It’s raining outside and the raintree is in a frenzy. Sneeze 83 to 86 and the lizard disappears. The rains outside have turned into a thunderstorm. It’s quite the sight.

IN dEfensE of thE riGHt browN that IS nEVeR quITe tHe RiGht bRown AnD OtHer ColOURS ThaT arE nOT brOwn

color-worksheets-for-preschool-4There are times when the air is so thick and unmoving, the land dry and barren that I can only describe it in a colour: brown. Brown like the ruggedness of a tree trunk, its bark peeling off the way skin does when burnt. Brown like the Catholic school girl’s skirt that remains resolutely in place. Brown, the brown that isn’t rich like coffee or deep like chocolate. A brown that cannot find an adjective other than…brown. Brown is also sturdy, like planks of wood that becomes a bridge. The furniture at home unchanging and unbroken. The heavy temple doors. The old ceiling fans- the new ones are a forcefully cheerful dull-white. Brown like makeshift cardboard boxes, full with nothing, nothing without anything. Brown of the paper that covered notebooks of math, science and every other dreadful nightmare that made school. Brown of the hair of the servants gone brown from black from working in the sun- crying  out for coconut oil. Brown of the coconut when it’s not tender anymore. Brown of the skin of my hand which still escapes from being too dark. Brown that is not the skin of crispy chicken and all things fried, because that is golden. Brown not of whiskey or the hint of red in rum. Brown that has a smell that can also be described as…brown. Brown of eyes that never look as attractive as hazel that is called brown. Brown that is not dry sand or wet earth. Brown that is the brown under your feet on white sheets. Brown of those lines of sweat and dirt that form on your already brown neck. Brown that is never altogether too brown or too pale to be brown, but is just brown. The colour pencil that isn’t quite your skin colour and not the additional dark brown. The missing brown in WhatsApp emoticons next to the yellow and white. The brown almost like the colour of roots when a giant tree is uprooted- one that is old, almost ancient and had a sudden death. Brown like the mud vessel used for orange-red fish curry with a dash of coconut milk. Brown that doesn’t quite sound brown with a capital B. Brown which needs just a little something after it to be as brown as it can be. A hyphen to separate, a comma to explain, a semi-colon with more to come, a colon to summarise, even an ellipses with more brown to come.

Brown with a rounded sound and a texture almost too rough. Brown that comes like an afterthought, like umami. brown…

I need to learn, again, how to walk

I got my driving license two years ago right before went to UK. After two years, now I am back to China, I don’t think I can drive properly without my parent sitting right next to me and telling me how to do. My hometown is a relatively small city, where traffic is still alright. But I can’t still deal with that- too many cars at the street. Plus, those small and not quite sturdy electric bicycles sometimes come out of nowhere and get on the primary car route, which gives me a chill.
I was even scared of walking at the street on my own during the first few days I got back. Walking at the street here requires another set of skills, it seems. Can’t be too polite. Maybe even have to take a little more courage, or else you can’t get across the street for very long time during rush hours. Again, need to watch for those small electric bicycles, like ghosts- come from everywhere, unbeatable- without the need of observing traffic rules and regulation. Plus, should be aware of those people getting too close to you. Thief. Streets, bus, metro, even in your own private cars, should be aware of someone suddenly comes close to you.
But how can I really stop someone getting close to me in public? It is China. Crowded street is all we should expect and know. So my parents strategy is- don’t wear pretty clothes don’t buy designer bags don’t even buy luxury cars. Don’t show off. Stay low key. So bad people won’t lay eyes on you.
I have to get familiar all those tips and rules again before I wander around my hometown on my own. So after getting back for two weeks, I finally went out for a walk for the first time in the evening.
I like walking around the city. Walking at the street is one of the best way to mingle with the people, I suppose. When I was still in Newcastle, I love to have a walk around for an hour every day. I like how all the buildings and houses are not that tall at all, so it feels like I can look further and enjoy a better view while I walk. I can always catch the sight of the sky without really looking up. I love a walk during weekdays, when the town is start to get quite after 6 pm. Most shops are closed and most people are staying home during weekdays. At first when I went to Newcastle, I needed to get used to how early quietness lays down to this city, then I started to enjoy such serenity. I also enjoy a walk during weekends, when the city centre is on fire. All the dressed up people and all the people dress up not to the weather was quite a shock for me at first. And then all this become quite a view to me and to the city of Newcastle.
Then now all of these seem to be gone. I walk around my hometown. Buildings are getting taller and taller. The tall buildings make the road cramped, which I have never felt this way before, strangely. I can’t see anything beyond those tall buildings alongside the road, which maybe good for me to concentrate on the traffic, even when I walk on the sidewalk. The ghost of small electric bicycles still haunts me on the sidewalk. But walking in my hometown is not all that unpleasant. I still do enjoy a bit busy side of life. When the night falls down to this relative small city, life is still lively here. Shops are open until quite late and people can still enjoy the pleasant of shopping in the evening.
Honk. Sorry, I guess I am stuck in my own thinking a little bit too much. I must be get in a way of some electronic bicycles. I should pay more attention to the traffic. Honk- how can I nearly forgot its existence after two years in UK. Honk gives me a startle, maybe that is how it works. But it is indeed everywhere. It brings the cramped road a little bit more chaos. You can say life is more lively here, as everything is busier. And I just wait patiently until all the cars pass so I can across the street without being startled again. Alas, I don’t mean to sound negative here, but I just need to learn how to walk in my city again.

i ran

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i ran today. legs ached a lot more than yesterday. yesterday was the first day of running. legs were caught unawares i guess. they obviously didn’t expect that i’d wake up one day and start running. today they reacted temperamentally – lazy and tired. yesterday, i wore my brother’s track pants that accidentally slipped into my the bag last time i went home, and traveled all the way here. my brother is into sports, plays a lot. i don’t like the synthetic texture of the tracks. i wore them for the first time yesterday. people usually wear track pants while running.

i have a pair of sport shoes. not sure if they are running shoes, but they don’t look odd. thankfully i have a pair of ankle socks. if i were to run with my regular mid-calf length socks, i’d look odd. the shoes’ll look odd too. yesterday, the socks would have been invisible – the pants were long. today, i wore shorts instead of track-pants. these shorts are odd. they definitely don’t look like shorts for running. but i like the morning breeze against my legs.

the last leg of the run was especially straining. i had decided that i won’t stop till i reach home. the pace was visibly slower. i could see my house. on the first floor i could see a woman pacing on the veranda. i don’t see my neighbors much. i live on the second floor. a barsati. i don’t see them much, my neighbors. they look like newlyweds. as i reached closer, i could see that she was talking on the phone. i think she too saw me as she sat on the steps that led to my floor and continued talking, while looking. i imagined that i when i reach the steps, i’ll have to stop momentarily and she’ll have to move aside. my pace quickened and i ran rather deftly till i reached the gate. i took the first flight of stairs anticipating the scene that had played in my head. but she wasn’t there. as i climbed up the second flight of stairs, i could hear her talking on the phone from inside the house. the doors and windows were wide open. i should open them too, to let the little air and sun in. i did. i could sense a bihari twang in the hindi of the woman. sound travels very easily here. my girlfriend is sure that the couple downstairs is scandalised by us. at night i can hear their washing machine grumbling. sometimes their words float up to my room like apparitions.

i sat for while, calmed my breath, drank some water, slipped out of my shoes and slipped into my flip flops. i didn’t need to wear shoes to go have breakfast at a nearby joint. i had pooris, which were a bit too oily. this joint is new. a family that runs a general store next to it, started it recently. one of the brothers oversees the joint. all the brothers look strikingly alike. you can tell they are brothers. this guy is fatter than the rest and balding. there were some women standing at the threshold of the shop getting parcels. one looked different from the rest. younger, dressed in jeans and a shirt. she asked about something, came in, and took a seat at the far end of the small room. there are usually only men here. she was curious looking. perhaps because of her glasses which looked old, of another time. the kind that have been refashioned today into the trendy nerd glasses. i wanted to wear my grandfather’s glasses, before it became a fashion, or so i think. but my teary grandmother burned them in his pyre as he was so attached to them. perhaps more than he was attached to her.

we paid the bill at the same time, that girl with glasses and i. she paid at the counter and left and the owner’s eyes traveled with her for some time before he realised that i am waiting to pay. he was lost even when he took the cash from my hand. i turned around and my eyes fell directly on her ass. i looked away.

while walking back, i took the turn into my neighborhood. a young girl was walking ahead of me. she had a heavy back pack, i presume she had books. she looked like someone who has just joined college. she half turned and saw me. i guess she realised a man was walking behind her. her pace quickened and mine slowed down. she seemed to be watching me cautiously from the corner of her eye and walking anxiously. i felt mighty uncomfortable. she more so, or so i think. i thought of speeding up and overtaking her. then i’d be in the front. but then i decided against it. might look too dramatic. i just hoped that she’d take one of the other turns and leave that street. she took the last of turns and till then i kept feeling her eyes on me – or was i feeling my eyes on her?

all this happened yesterday. i didn’t think much about today. my legs kept me more occupied. oh and i forgot to mention, the mornings these days are beautiful. the early morning sun falls warmly on the body and gently on the leaves. the raintrees of this neighborhood stretch languorously against the clear blue sky and you are often greeted by a cuckoo or two. the abandoned railway track round the corner and the unruly growth of grass around gives the landscape a quaint feel. for a few moments it feels like the city has escaped you, or you the city. it’s only towards the end of the run, that you realise, in your exhaustion, that the city has gone nowhere. it was sleeping and is stirring out of it, into a hot summer wakefulness.

today | bIts of PAPeR

jane-eyre
santiago caruso, Jane Eyre

A screaming song is good to know, in case you have to scream

Are women ever really free? I have to hide my nipples with my hair when at home, a small price to pay when i don’t want to wear a bra- another pair of cuffs.

I have to walk with my hands by my side, so my hips don’t sway, breasts don’t weigh.

I have to look down and if I look up ,not meet another’s eyes, woman’s in disdain, man’s in a leer.

If I dare wear a short skirt, it’s not my scars I have to hide. Small price to pay for choosing not to wear pants- a man’s garment.

If I sneeze I’ve been too loud and will draw attention to collarbones jutting out, freckle on my upper arm, folds of flesh peeping from under my top, anything with skin and veins under the skin.

If I sneeze, I’ve made myself ugly and human like no other human and must be subject to one arm distances and backs turned in bed- as if another body in bed is God given grace.

I paint my nails like someone watching my frills and scoffing, like someone letting my red bleed into dirty fingernails in my vagina.

To tell a story is to say, this is the important story- in that case, choose your story wisely and don’t call your stories stories otherwise

I curl my lashes like someone watching my eyes flutter and not blink, gaps between my lashes unmanned territories.

I look quickly into the mirror as if someone will catch me look, my vanity may not go unpunished.

I eat in protest, eat a lot to resist slim waists, eat too little because protests are battered with varnish.

I can consume liquor/ I can’t. That but not this, this because of that and never that because this is what it is and not enough of that.

You may claim that of you, but won’t you ask different questions of freedom then?

There are purple people with crocodile skin and blue hair in Jupiter

Why I shouldn’t sleep as much
For years I have been told that I must sleep early at night. I don’t ever remember being able to sleep fully or early or peacefully. I was a restless sleeper, a reluctant sleeper, a sleepwalker and an avid dreamer. The joys of 8 hours of sleep always sounded like a vomit-coloured pill that I didn’t want to take to better myself. But off late- perhaps these are signs of ageing- I have found myself being envious of sound sleepers. I find myself increasingly needing those 8 hours of sleep to feel slightly awake for the 12 hours of work ahead of me. So I sleep. I sleep only a few hours after I reach home from work everyday. The results that I’d assumed would be miraculous and gratifying, aren’t nearly as amazing as everyone made it sound. I find myself, instead,waking up to guilt. Guilt for not having done that extra bit of work before going to bed. Guilt for not having finished that bottle of water like I used to, after dinner. Guilt for not having watched a whole film in weeks. Guilt for not finding time to read the book that haunts my dreams. Guilt for even not sleeping light or restless enough to be conscious of my dreams. So I sleep. I sleep fully, I sleep peacefully. I sleep early.
Why I shouldn’t sleep as much
To read the book I can’t seem to finish and then read ten more. To watch the films that I add to my list but never watch. To dream because without dreams I don’t seem to be able to imagine while I am awake. To write even, because writing needs the quietude, solitude and the romance of the night that the broadest brightest ray of sunlight refuses to inspire. To  work a little, because my work requires the creativity that a workspace- in all its charms- cannot provide. To have those midnight snacks, because my favourite biscuits seem to disappear and I believe elves steal my share at night. To send those mindless texts to ex-lovers, overly emotional ones to friends long gone, and highly inappropriate ones to those that cannot be. To cry, because a good cry- and I swear by this- gets rid of toxins and is akin to a great facial. To walk restlessly and explore my house at night, because it comes to life in new and frankly quite eerie ways in the dark. To even perhaps sleep fewer hours, because it makes sleep itself a thrill I can seldom indulge in.